This post was written by Hatchet senior staff writer Alex Kist.
After a season full of ups and downs, an old nemesis spelled the end for GW.
The Colonials (21-11) fell to top-seeded Dayton (24-5), 3-2, in a five-set brawl in the Atlantic 10 Tournament semifinals Saturday. It was the second year in a row that the Flyers ended the Colonials’ season, and spelled the end of GW careers for seniors Maddy Doyle, Jordan Timmer and Maggie Skjelbred.
“We’ve worked really, really hard to get to this point,” Doyle said. “I’ve had a really positive experience here at GW, with both volleyball and school. Even though this isn’t the end result I wanted, I wouldn’t have changed it for anything.”
Set scores were 23-25, 25-19, 17-25, 25-21 and 9-15.
The Colonials had the crowd on their side throughout the entire match and pushed the Flyers until the end, but Dayton senior Jill Loiars knocked down five kills in the final frame, giving the Flyers the push they needed to defeat GW.
The first set went back-and-forth until the end, but 10 GW attack errors and strong offense from Alaina Turner gave Dayton the lead at the first break.
Right out of the gate in the second set, though, GW retaliated. The Colonials got out to a 10-3 lead as Dayton struggled to get touches at the net and GW knocked down a string of winners. Dayton clawed back, but hit just .029 in the set and never challenged GW’s lead.
One of the Colonials’ strengths this season has been their versatility, allowing them to present a balanced attack. In the second set, they showed off their talents with five players each posting a handful of kills.
“We stayed driven throughout the match, and I don’t think dropping the first set shocked us at all,” head coach Amanda Ault said.
In the third frame, GW’s defense fell apart and Dayton again regained the lead after hitting .378. But the Colonials pulled even again in the fourth, led by strong blocking that helped create 11 Dayton attack errors.
Ault said that her team needed to throw the first punch in the fifth set, but the complete opposite played out. Dayton was all over the set, shooting out to a 8-1 lead and devastating the Colonials’ defense.
“I think we left opportunities slip away from us in the fifth set,” Ault said. “We worked on blocking a considerable amount in practice, but when we needed some touches in the fifth set, we weren’t there. Whether our focus got somewhere else, I think that’s part of our game that kind of shutdown.”
It was déja vu, Ault said. Taking a competitor to a fifth set but coming up short was a theme all season long, she said, that emerged not from lack of skill but from mental barriers.
GW tried to make a comeback, and pulled within four after freshman outside hitter Kelsey Clark placed an emphatic kill between two defenders diving for the ball to make the score 12-8. But the Colonials were simply running out of time. Junior middle blocker Chidima Osuchukwu, who was named to the All-Tournament team, was able to get her hands on the ball one more time before the Flyers finished them off 15-9.
At the end of their final collegiate match, Doyle and Timmer were overcome by emotion. Like the season, the Colonials didn’t accomplish everything they wanted to but seemed just inches away.
“It’s always going to be a good game when we play Dayton, no matter what,” Timmer said. “But I think tonight was about who was going to work the hardest and who had the most heart, and I think we were the better team until the fifth set.”